We’re starting a new feature at the WHI blog, Five for Friday. Five for Friday is so named because we’ll ask five questions of pastors, missionaries, theologians, and regular Joes/Joans who are working for Reformation and post their answers on Fridays. Clever, I know.
If you know of people who are leading the way forward to a new Reformation in their native countries, within their denominations, or in their congregations, we’d love to feature their stories. Send us an email and we’ll send them our five questions.
Our inaugural guest is Sebastian Heck, who is working to establish a Reformed presence in Germany, starting in Heidelberg.
What historical connection does Heidelberg have with the Protestant Reformation?
When Frederick the III became elector of the Palatinate, the region surrounding Heidelberg, the city of Heidelberg quickly rose to become one of the most prominent centers of Reformed theology in all of Europe. Through the assiduous publication of Reformed literature as well as the training of hundreds of Reformed pastors who went out from Heidelberg to many different contries, Heidelberg eventually merited the name “the Geneva of the North.” While the Lutheran Reformation had begun almost 50 years earlier, in the early 1560s, Germany experienced what many call a “second Reformation” – the Reformed Reformation. One of the best known and most beloved products of that time is the Heidelberg Catechism which, upon publication in 1563, was immediately translated in many different languages and became the confessional statement uniting Reformed believers across European borders. While Geneva affected primarily Switzerland and France, Heidelberg led to the founding and prospering of Reformed churches in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and many other countries. Even the United States would soon benefit from Reformed believers emmigrating and bringing the robust faith of the Heidelberg Catechism to the shores of the New World.
Germany is in most people’s minds associated with Martin Luther and Lutheranism. What is the state of confessional, Reformational Lutheranism in Germany?
It is true that people usually associate Reformation Germany with Martin Luther and Lutheranism and not so much with the Reformed faith, but Germany did have a strong Reformed church, at least for a few decades. There are two major expressions of Lutheranism in Germany today. The first is the Lutheran State Churches. The better and healthier of these are usually the ones that were heavily affected by Pietism. Pietism served as a cushion against liberalism and higher criticism. In general, the State Churches tend to be quite liberal and miss one, two, or all three of the marks that we believe make a true church. The buildings, the liturgies, the hymnody and psalmody might still be there, but unfortunately the gospel has been excused, and along with it the proper administration of the sacraments. The second expression of Lutheranism is the so called “Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church” with about 200 congregations, a sister church to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It is by far the more conservative of the two, but even this church is struggling with the influx of liberalism as well as issues such as pressure to allow women ordination.
What are the greatest dangers to reformation in modern day Germany?
The greatest danger to reformation in modern day Germany is simply this: that no one might be interested in doing it. Many believers, both in Germany and outside of it, have capitulated and no longer believe reformation to be possible. Disbelief in the sovereignty of God is a great hindrance to any work of reformation. But so is an exceedingly broad and superficial evangelicalism, or even an “evangelical,” non-confessional version of Reformed Christianity in Germany.
What we need is not necessarily Martin Luthers or John Calvins, but faithful, well-trained pastors who are willing to suffer and be persecuted – and churches that rely utterly and completely on the promises of God as well as the means he has ordained for the planting, the growth, and the perseverance of the church. Any compromise in these areas is bound to suffocate any impulse towards reformation.
What does your group try to do to influence German Reformation?
Reformation2Germany is an endeavor to do three things: (1) to plant confessional Reformed churches that rely on a Word & Sacrament ministry, i.e. the means of grace, (2) to publish Reformed ressources, both popular and academic, both contemporary and classics, through our publishing house Wortverlag, (3) to train pastors. We believe all these things need to be there and to feed into each other for any work of reformation to be sustained. As there is currently no confessional Reformed denomination in Germany, with the first church plants we are laying the ground work for a new Reformed denomination in Germany and hope to be able to train our own pastors.
How can donors who are willing to stand with you help the cause?
As you can imagine, the entire work of Reformation2Germany needs solid outside funding. It is next to impossible, at least initially, to garner any support from within Germany, given the state of the churches there. For convenience sake, we maintain a project support account with Mission To The World (PCA) where you can easily donate. Please find detailed information on our website. Even with a small but faithful donation you can help bring the reformation back to the Land of the Reformation and return a favor that has once been granted to you.
For further information, to donate or to sign up for the Reformation2Germany newsletter, please visit our website.